Super Bowl ads? Try this: Tom vs. Eli as pitchman

Forget Super Bowl ads. Which Super Bowl quarterback is better at pitching products?

David J. Phillip/AP/File
In this 2008 file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning meet on the field before Super Bowl XLII football game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The two will square off in Super Bowl XLVI this Sunday.

Much is on the line for quarterbacks Tom Brady and Eli Manning in Super Bowl XLVI. For Brady, a fourth Super Bowl win with the Patriots would put him in conversations as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. For Manning, a second championship would make a strong case for his eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, alongside shoo-ins Brady and Eli’s big brother Peyton.

But let’s put football aside for a moment and look at these two in their biggest secondary occupation outside of football: as commercial spokesmen. Given the choice between Brady and Manning, who’s a better bet as far as selling a product?

In addition to stellar NFL careers, both Manning and Brady have been effective players in the ad game. Manning made $7 million in endorsement earnings in 2011, according to Sports Illustrated’s “Fortunate 50,” a list of the 50 highest-earning American athletes. His long list of sponsors includes Toyota, Reebok, Citizen Watches, and Oreos (alongside Peyton).

Brady, meanwhile, pulled in  $10 million this year from sponsorships with Ugg Boots and Under Armour. In past years, he’s peddled Dunkin’ Donuts, Cadillac, Snickers, Visa, Gap, Vitamin Water, and the luxury watch brand Movado. But despite making less money, Manning may have a slight edge over Brady in the ad game for one huge reason: Statistically, he’s more likable.

Marketing Evaluations, Inc, a market research firm, ranks the visibility and appeal of celebrities with an index called a “Q-score.” The average Q score for an athlete is 15, which happens to be Brady’s score. Eli Manning’s is a 19, while Peyton Manning’s is a 28 – the highest of any active athlete.

More confirmation comes from the Davie Brown Index, which ranks 2,500 of the biggest celebrities on their “ability to influence brand affinity and consumer purchase intent,” according to its website. Brady’s “national appeal” score is 69.85 out of a possible 100. It’s the same score as actor David Spade. Manning beats him with a 79.85 score – similar to Chuck Norris.

A Super Bowl win could help Manning’s marketability even further, to the point where he might be able to eventually surpass Brady in endorsement earnings. But beyond the numbers, what do Manning and Brady each offer in terms of on-camera presence?

Brady’s commercials don’t require him to do a whole lot – with his good looks and credentials, he doesn’t really have to. He has the confidence and refinement to sell high-end fashion, expensive cars, and cologne. He may be the only man on Earth who could have gotten away with becoming the face of UGGs, a brand aimed primarily at women. Brady has also become more discerning as his career has progressed: according to Sports Business Daily, Brady owns stake in UGGs and Under Armour, the only two companies he currently endorses. That's a unique situation for a spokesman. 

Unlike Brady, it’s hard to picture Eli Manning in a perfume ad. You’re more likely to see him selling the usual fare of professional athletes – cars, sneakers, and food. But he has more of an ability to laugh at himself, and the Mannings have gotten a lot of commercial mileage from playing Eli and Peyton’s sibling status for laughs (see below: the 2006 “This is SportsCenter” commercial featuring the entire Manning clan). By far the quieter Manning, Eli can often be counted on to play the straight man to Peyton's comic foil. As he strikes out and does ads solo, Eli would do well to follow Peyton's example – his older brother may be the most marketable player in NFL history, earning $15 million in endorsement money last year.

So who should be in your commercial? It's hard to beat the Mannings for most products, but for high-end clothing and print ads, Brady's your guy.

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